1 Thessalonians 4 - Abound in Love Toward Sanctification

INTRODUCTION: Paul NOW talks about the process of SANCTIFICATION that will culminate in glorious RESURRECTION to eternal life for those who has been transformed by the renewing power of Christ.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the World English bible (WEB).


A - PAUL URGES THE THESSALONIANS TO ABOUND TOWARD SANCTIFICATION

1 Thessalonians 4 "1 Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4 that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honour, 5 not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don't know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. 7 For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 8 Therefore he who rejects this doesn't reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you."

COMMENTS: Three times in this passage Paul refers to sanctification, as he draws attention to the sexual immorality of those Gentiles who don't know God, and are characterized by their passion of lust. Paul is very emphatic as he says, "we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus," to remember that we instructed you how to conduct yourselves and to please God, because those instructions were through the Lord Jesus.

The Lord himself gave this warning about the thoughts that can change our hearts even before we act on them. Matthew 5 "28 But I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." Paul makes the point very clear that those inside the church of Jesus Christ must be very careful not to be carried away by lust regarding each other. It is a false sense of security to believe this will not happen within the church. No one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things. This places a special responsibility on each individual Christian to be aware of just how much our own actions can be a hindrance to the sanctification of other Christians.

Again Paul makes it very clear that this warning must not be rejected as from man, because it is truly from God, and the Lord has given His Holy Spirit to each believer. We do not know all the details of Paul's teaching while he was among the Thessalonians, but he later wrote this about the source of our strength to resist temptation. Galatians 5 "16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh." James warns us not to try to blame anyone else for our own lust. James 1 "14 But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed."

The apostle Peter reminds us that Christ has called us and equipped us to live for Him. 2 Peter 1 "3 seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue; 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust." The apostle John speaks of the eternal reward for resisting the attractions of the very temporary things of the world system. 1 John 2 "16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn't the Father's, but is the world's. 17 The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God's will remains forever."


B - ABOUND IN BROTHERLY LOVE

1 Thessalonians 4 "9 But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, 10 for indeed you do it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more; 11 and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing."

COMMENTS: Brotherly love is in contrast with lust, and Paul says that the Thessalonians had already demonstrated an abundance of this love toward the brethren throughout Macedonia. He encouraged them to continue growing in such love to the fullest point possible, to be sure that it not be withheld from any they might encounter anywhere. Next Paul mentioned some very practical matters of everyday living. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing." The brotherly love expressed by the Greek term "philadelphia" is linked to the Christian work ethic in other scripture passages, thus again demonstrating the consistent nature of scriptural principles.

Romans 12 "10 In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate {philadelphia} one to another; in honour preferring one another; 11 not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality." The apostle Peter tells us we have the ability to exhibit these characteristic because we have a new nature through the second birth. 1 Peter 1 "22 Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection {philadelphia}, love one another from the heart fervently: 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever."


C - SPECIAL COMFORT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE DIED IN CHRIST

1 Thessalonians 4 "13 But we don't want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don't grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God's trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words."

COMMENTS: Could there be some confusion about what Christ Jesus had taught, and subsequently that which was taught by the apostles? Paul wanted to make further clarification of some of those points, and his letter provided documentation in a record to be shared. When the Lord Jesus traveled as he taught the people, his disciples thought that he would establish the kingdom of God while he was with them. They had to learn that other events must first take place. Mark 9 "1 He said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power."" But that did not refer to the last resurrection. Luke 17 "20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The Kingdom of God doesn't come with observation; 21 neither will they say, ' Look, here!' or, 'Look, there!' for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you."

If it doesn't come with observation, then is there an event to look for in the future? The time ahead was not clear to those who traveled with Christ. Luke 19 "11 As they heard these things, he went on and told a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the Kingdom of God would be revealed immediately."

In letters written later than this first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul also spoke of things that may have been confusing. Romans 14 "17 For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." In some sense then, the kingdom of God already exists within believers. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he spoke of the resurrection to an incorruptible state, as a future event for believers. 1 Corinthians 15 "50 Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can't inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."

Apparently Paul had either not taught about this mystery, or it was necessary for him to add clarity to reassure the Thessalonians about those who had died as believers in Christ before His glorious return. Paul establishes the comforting truth that the "dead in Christ" will be resurrected even before any who are alive, will join Christ in the last resurrection upon Christ's return. The Lord Jesus had also given comfort about those who had died even many centuries earlier, as believers in the living and true God. Matthew 22 "31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven't you read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

This comforting truth from the Lord and from Paul is reserved only for those who have placed full trust in their redemption through Christ. Those who are still in their sin will have no joy at the return of Christ, as confirmed by the Lord Jesus. John 5 "Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself. He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don't seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

If I truly believe in the coming resurrection, I must depend solely on your Spirit within me for my continuing sanctification. Therefore, Lord Jesus, I ask that you work in me each day that I might demonstrate that I realize the importance of making this effort through your enabling power. Remind me Lord, that it is because of your perfect love that you require this of me so I might become more like Christ. Fix my thoughts on ways to express brotherly love more than I have in the past. I want to have a pattern of daily living that honors you to those outside the church, through good stewardship of those resources you have provided for the material needs of my family or others we might help. Thank you that within the body of Christ we have such a special comfort for any Christian loved ones we have lost to death, knowing they shall be restored in the resurrection to eternal life. Praise the LORD from whom ALL blessings flow! Amen.

1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1 - Good News in Word and Power 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2 - Boldness Out of Suffering 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 3 - Paul Sent Timothy 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5 - Stay Alert for Christ's Return

Published 15 March 2011